The Matrix series features a very cyberpunk-esque story of the technological fall of mankind, in which the creation of artificial intelligence led the way to a race of self-aware machines that imprisoned mankind in a virtual reality system—the Matrix—to be farmed as a power source. Occasionally, some of the prisoners manage to break free from the system and, considered a threat, become pursued by the artificial intelligence both inside and outside of it. The films focus on the plight of Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) trying to free humanity from the system while pursued by its guardians, such as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving).

Neo (born as Thomas A. Anderson, aka the Prime Program, aka The One, an anagram for Neo) is the protagonist of the Matrix franchise. He was portrayed as a cybercriminal and computer programmer by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Trilogy, as well as having a cameo in The Animatrix short film Kid’s Story. Andrew Bowen provided Neo’s voice in The Matrix: Path of Neo. In 2008, Neo was selected by Empire as the 68th Greatest Movie Character of All Time.

As Thomas Anderson, he was a ‘normal citizen with a social security number’ and worked as a computer programmer for the MetaCortex software company. Aside from his professional life, Anderson worked as a hacker selling contraband programming, under the alias Neo, which became his common-use name after he was freed from the Matrix.

“When the Matrix was first built, there was a man born inside who had the ability to change whatever he wanted, to remake the Matrix as he saw fit. It was he who freed the first of us, taught us the truth – As long as the Matrix exists, the human race will never be free. After he died, the Oracle prophesied his return and that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix, end the war, bring freedom to our people. That is why there are those who have spent our entire lives searching the Matrix looking for him.”

― Morpheus telling Neo of The Fifth One.

Neo is a systemic feature of the Matrix, in which a special code is carried by a randomly selected human being who possesses vast superhuman abilities as an avatar within the Matrix in addition to some extraordinary powers in the real world. The code mentioned has the function to attach to the person that carries all the anomalies (humans rejecting the Matrix) within the Matrix, essentially making him/her an “Integral Anomaly”, the SUM of all anomalies.

The mechanisms by which The One appears are rather simple and arranged in the Prime Program process: when the anomalies in the Matrix begin to cause serious problems, a random human is selected by the machines to be born with a special code (the Integral Anomaly) that, as said before, ties and attaches all the anomalies within the Matrix with the programming of this human.

The Oracle is a major supporting character in The Matrix franchise. She is a program with such insight into human psychology that she has clairvoyant abilities. The character is portrayed by Gloria Foster in the first and second films, and then Mary Alice in the third film.

The Oracle is aware of The One’s existence and purpose because it is her duty to guide humanity to find The One, enlighten him to his true nature and lead him towards the Source where he fulfills his purpose of reinserting the Prime Program and resetting the Matrix. She does this by predicting the return of The One to the people of Zion to aid them in freeing humanity from the Machines’ grip. The Architect, as the creator of the Matrix, is well aware of The One’s existence and purpose, referring to The One as an “eventuality”.

The Architect (portrayed by Helmut Bakaitis) is a highly specialized, humorless program of the Machine world as well as the creator of the Matrix. As the chief administrator of the system, he is possibly a collective manifestation, or at the very least a virtual representation of the entire Machine mainframe.

Neo succeeds in reaching the Machine City and meets with the leader of the Machines, the Deus Ex Machina. He argues that Smith, who has completely taken over the Matrix by then, will eventually cause the Matrix to crash, killing humanity thus depriving the Machines of their power source and therefore, wiping out both species from existence. He then states that he can destroy Smith and save both species, and all he wants is peace between the two races.

The Deus Ex Machina agrees to the terms and plugs Neo into the Matrix to fight Smith. After Neo sacrifices himself and Smith is defeated, the Machines uphold the terms of the truce that Neo proposes, and the Machine War ends, with Zion saved from the brink of destruction, and the Matrix successfully reloaded, thus ensuring the survival of both humanity and the Machines.

The story of the Matrix series incorporates references to numerous philosophical, religious, or spiritual ideas, among others the dilemma of choice vs. control, the brain in a vat thought experiment, messianism, and the concepts of inter-dependency and love. Influences include the principles of mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly “heroic bloodshed” and martial arts movies). The film series is perhaps most notable for its use of heavily choreographed action sequences and “bullet time” slow-motion effects, which revolutionized action films to come.

Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne)

Sure, there are some cheesy one-liners in all three films. The simple fact is that The Matrix is more than 20 years old and it is STILL one of the greatest science fiction films ever made.

The Wachowskis has confirmed that a fourth sequel is on its way. Like the first three, Matrix 4 is co-written and directed by both siblings. The film sees the reprise of Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), with Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Priyanka Chopra signing on in undisclosed roles. Under the codename Project Ice Cream, filming began last year in San Francisco, before being halted due to the pandemic. Resuming in Berlin in September and wrapping in November, the film is set for release on December 21st, 2021.

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Neo in The Matrix Trilogy (1999, 2003, 2003)

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We like:

  • The action and choreography that paved the way for Keanu Reeves' career
  • The Matrix is a masterfully created action film that near-flawlessly weaves a contained story into a complex universe.